Building IT Governance: Overcoming Challenges

By Adam Nelson  |  Posted 2008-11-26 Email Print this article Print

While organizations have similar goals such as controlling costs and achieving data consistency, IT departments across government, corporations and nonprofits operate differently. IT management needs an overarching governance model like CobiT, ITIL, CMM and Six Sigma to ensure that investments in technology generate business value and mitigate risks.

Building IT Governance: Overcoming Challenges

Throughout IT organizations, common themes are described as areas of opportunity: improve project planning and investment; increase collaboration and information sharing; facilitate effective communication and transition across the lifecycle; control cost while providing efficient operations and support; enhance service delivery; and improve security. These themes are usually approached as individual programs or are carefully orchestrated as an overarching organizational transformation related to technology operations.

Certain areas, such as security and managing data across an enterprise, require heavy investment and monitoring. These are also areas that auditors commonly spend time scrutinizing and directing change for heightened control.

When remediation is essential, reactive solutions are typically implemented. Though necessary, these solutions can be costly and inefficient. Once a baseline is set, however, and the auditors leave, it is far more efficient for IT management to proactively design and support an improvement plan with cross-functional reach. The CobiT model can help with this.

By understanding the four domains and the underlying process areas, IT management and staff can begin communicating from a common frame of reference. Leveraging the CobiT toolkits, IT management can promote a standard set of metrics, process structures, improvement plans and self-assessment mechanisms. This allows each area to initiate, report and monitor in a similar fashion.

In almost every change-management or operational-improvement approach, stakeholder involvement is critical, yet this is often where things fall apart. Think how many project managers ask for executive stakeholder meetings to communicate issues and detailed plans. Now ask how many IT managers have enough time to devote to such detail. The answer would be “very few.”

With an understanding of CobiT and having a common approach to managing and measuring processes, IT management will have an informed understanding of the objectives to be achieved. This understanding allows IT management to focus on the actions that require their attention, enabling the program to stay on track based on meaningful risk and opportunity reviews.

From the ITGI CobiT 4.1 framework document, the four domains and their relationships are described and the related process areas listed. The relationships can help IT management focus on areas of opportunity or risk.

Plan and Organize (PO) provides direction to solution delivery (AI) and service delivery (DS); Acquire and Implement (AI) provides the solutions and passes them to be turned into services; Deliver and Support (DS) receives the solutions and makes them usable for end users; and Monitor and Evaluate (ME) monitors all processes to ensure that the direction is followed.

A governance framework is worthwhile only if it is actually used; otherwise, it becomes a waste of money and a burden to the staff. To be effective, its language must permeate regular conversations among the leadership team and find its way into dashboards and documents.

By using CobiT tools, IT management can quickly assess strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. It can then reduce costs, improve the top-line, enhance customer service, or meet compliance and regulatory reporting by balancing risk mitigation and process improvement in a proactive fashion.

Adam Nelson is director of management and IT consulting at Keane, a global IT consulting firm headquartered in San Ramon, Calif.

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